The idea of responsible tourism is becoming increasingly popular among visitors and tourists in Cambodia. Responsible tourism is the concept of creating a more enjoyable experiences for tourists by not just encouraging them to sightsee at temples, museums or other landmarks, but to also encourage them to make meaningful connections with the local people and to gain a greater understanding of the local cultural, social and environmental issues. With that perspective, a growing number of visitors are looking for meaningful ways to help and connect with the local community while in Siem Reap, even if they have only half a day available.
if you want to make a meaningful impact while traveling abroad during a short holiday, check out the following nine sustainable options for giving back. You may be surprised to learn that even a few hours of your time can be incredibly beneficial for the local community while you also have the opportunity to explore a new region and its culture.
1. Cook a meal and help disadvantaged children
Touch a Life is a non-profit organisation that aims to prepare free, healthy meals to disadvantaged children and adults in Siem Reap. The founder, Mavis Ching, invites volunteers to come to her kitchen twice a week to cook the meals together. Once the food is ready, the group heads to a village in need and distribute the meals to its inhabitants. Volunteers typically chop vegetables, cook rice, and package the meals in a lively and friendly environment with people from all over the world. It’s a beautiful way to make friends and to contribute to a meaningful cause.
2. Cuddle cats at a pagoda
Founded by Josette, a cat lover, Pagoda Cats is a charitable organisation promoting the care and adoption of stray cats living in pagodas in Siem Reap. It’s a common habit for Cambodians to bring unwanted pets to a nearby pagoda (a buddist temple), so every Cambodian pagoda is a de-facto animal shelter housing dozens of animals. You can join Josette in her daily visits to the pagoda and cuddle the cats.
Visits to the pagodas are free, but donations are gladly accepted. Take a look at Pagoda Cats’ Facebook page to see pictures of some of the visits!
3. Have a coffee and help young, underprivileged women
Bayon Pastry School offers a vocational training in pastry making for young, underprivileged women. You can support their free vocational pastry training for disadvantaged women by heading to their coffee shop and enjoy their delicious cakes! Located in a peaceful garden in the heart of Siem Reap, Bayon Pastry School Coffee Shop offers tasty pastries freshly baked by its students, as well as coffee, tea and other fresh drinks.
Visit the Bayon Pastry School Coffee Shop Facebook page to see the different kinds of baked goods they have.
4. Enjoy Phare circus performances to support education
Phare is much more than your average circus. Phare puts on live performances with drama, live music, dance and modern circus arts that tell original, uniquely Cambodian stories. By attending their show, you can have a glimpse of Cambodian stories and folklore. All generated revenue generated supports the free education, professional arts training and social programs of Phare Ponleu Selpak.
5. Buy recycled goods and help disadvantaged women
Rehash Trash is a social enterprise that turns dirty roadside rubbish into incredibly stylish goodies. Sadly, in Cambodia, garbage is in abundance. Each day, the Rehash Trash goes out to collect the discarded plastic bags that litter Siem Reap and transform them into nice arts and crafts projects. Buy recycled products, assist women and their families, and help keep the Siem Reap environment beautiful.
6. Take cooking lessons while supporting vocational training
Would you like to learn how to cook delicious Cambodian dishes, like Fish Amok or Lok Lak? Consider joining cooking classes at New Hope Cambodia’s Training Restaurant. You will learn how to make wonderful Cambodian dishes while supporting unemployed and often uneducated Khmers who are also learning valuable cooking and hospitality skills. By learning new skills and gaining invaluable work experience, these locals are able to developing their confidence and open themselves up to employment opportunities.
7. Meet rats that are saving lives
APOPO is a Belgian NGO that has developed an innovative system deploying African giant pouched rats (nicknamed HeroRATs) to detect landmines or tuberculosis. Pouched rats’ light weight and highly developed sense of smell make them the ideal detectors of landmines and tuberculosis. Landmines or tuberculosis cases that typically take days to detect can now be identified by trained pouch rats in less than an hour.
Visit the APOPO centre and meet these lifesavers in person!
8. Learn the Cambodia war story
Cambodia remains one of the most heavily mined countries in the world as a result of decades of conflict. The Cambodian Landmine Museum tells the world about the horrors of landmines and unexploded ordinance, as well as the aftermath of war and how to educate for a landmine-free world.
Money raised by the Cambodian Landmine Museum goes towards the support and education of over 20 at-risk Khmer children who live on site in the museum’s Relief Centre, as well as the museum’s two local sister NGOs.
9. Join a fundraising event
Local non-profits often organise fundraising events in town, such as raffles. It can be a good chance to meet new people while financially supporting socially responsible projects with a small donation.
Check local Facebook groups, such as Expats and locals living in Siem Reap, Cambodia to see the latest events.